Skip Navigation


Fertility for Cancer Survivors

By Elizabeth Edsall Kromm
As a child, Elizabeth Edsall Kromm had kidney cancer. Surgeons at Johns Hopkins removed her left kidney, and she underwent years of treatment before being declared cancer-free. Kromm again turned to Johns Hopkins when she and her husband decided to start a family. OBGYN Lisa Kolp, who specializes in fertility for cancer survivors guided the couple through treatments, including the decision to use a surrogate. Their surrogate was a few months pregnant when Kromm also got pregnant. She is now the mother of two baby girls, Caroline and Amelia.

My worst day

I worried about the effects of the cancer treatments I had, and I knew getting pregnant might be an issue. My husband and I went through multiple rounds of intrauterine insemination and IVF. It was hard after that last transfer didn’t take.

What I did to get better

I always considered alternate means of starting a family. I looked at adoption, at surrogacy. When we decided to use assisted reproductive technology, Dr.Kolp was very realistic with us. She said our chances were slim. When we decided to use a surrogate, she supported us through the process. After interviewing potential agencies and researching the ideal characteristics of a surrogate, I went to a few close friends and I said, “This is a very strange question, but do you have any friends who might be interested in doing this for us?” That’s how we found Caroline’s surrogate.

Me now

A few months into our surrogate’s pregnancy, I felt sick. Because of my symptoms, my doctor ordered a nuclear medicine scan to check on my remaining kidney. I had to take a pregnancy test first. It was positive. I thought it was a mistake. I took another. Dr. Kolp saw us that same day for an ultrasound. I was 9 weeks pregnant. She turned the screen to face us and we could see the heartbeat. My husband and I both lost it. Caroline was born first, full term, and Amelia followed 11 days later, three months premature. The babies are both doing well.
A woman holds her two babies
Adriana Vawdrey

Other Departments

  • Expert Advice
    How do I help my picky kids pick good food?
  • Survey
    New findings in health, including the benefits of mentoring, treating the terrible twos, and what to do about those sell by dates.
  • Ten Things
    10 Ways to Mitigate Migraines
  • Just Curious
    Why has Lyme disease become so prevalent?
  • Book Report
    What you should be reading.
  • Viewpoint
    Benjamin Ginsberg on the potential value of violence.
  • MedTech
    Apps, gadgets, and other innovations that are advancing health and health science.
  • Breakthroughs
    News from the cutting edge of research: How babies learn, vaccinating mosquitoes, and predicting autoimmune disorders.
  • Conversation
    Pianist and composer Michael Hersch is on the composition faculty at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. His music has premiered in concert halls around the globe.